Head of TVA Watts Bar nuke project abruptly exits

By The Associated Press

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Valley Authority’s manager of the nation’s only nuclear reactor construction project has abruptly left the job.

Masoud Bajestani, TVA’s site vice president for the $2.5 billion Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor construction project in East Tennessee, left Friday.

TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said Tuesday that Bajestani’s departure was not related to a Thursday letter from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, first reported by WTVC-TV in Chattanooga, that cites TVA “errors and omissions” in a Watts Bar project fire protection report and excessive delays in providing information.

Brooks said Bajestani’s departure was “personnel related” and he declined to elaborate.

“All we are saying is he is not with TVA anymore,” Brooks said

Bajestani did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment. His former wife took the message and said there was no other way to reach him by phone.

The NRC’s letter asks TVA to act promptly in providing information needed in its review of TVA’s application for a reactor operating license.

A TVA statement said the utility “is aware of the concerns expressed in the letter, and we are addressing them directly with the NRC” and expect to have the project completed on time in 2012.

“TVA regularly communicates with the NRC in person and by phone, and will continue to do so,” the letter said.

TVA is spending $2.5 billion over five years to complete construction on the 1,200-megawatt reactor that is expected to supply electricity to 650,000 homes. The Watts Bar Unit 1 reactor started operating in 1996.

TVA Senior Project manager Marie Gillman was appointed interim site director for the project.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that Bajestani, a 54-year-old nuclear engineer from Iran, had a five-year contract to finish the reactor. He earned $619,000 in income and bonuses, according to testimony in a divorce case last year.

Elliot Brenner, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman said NRC officials “have been assured (Bajestani’s departure) has no issue related to nuclear security.”

TVA provides electricity for utility and business customers in most of Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.